Overview: In Teen Titans Academy #4, the team of junior detectives from Gotham follow the clues through Titans Tower to solve the mystery behind Red X, once and for all.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): Teen Titans Academy #4 begins in the Roost, the dorm room of Bratgirl, Megabat, and Chupacabra, the trio of junior detectives self-proclaimed as the Bat Pack, put their heads together to solve their toughest case yet; revealing the identity of mysterious Red X.
The investigation, recounted by Chupacabra, narrates how the three young sleuths from Gotham started piecing the puzzle together by first rounding up their suspects, starting with Tooby, another student at Teen Titan’s Academy. Despite their interrogation techniques (like say, electricity) they didn’t gain any useful information and were back to staring at square one.
A different approach was needed, and so the Bat Pack sought the help of Stitch, another academy student who had the goods on every academy student, and some of that faculty. The file handed to the teens from Gotham didn’t contain much but pointed them towards Matt Price, a classmate who keeps to himself, doesn’t show off his powers, and doesn’t reveal his secrets.
They had a trail and started following it, tracking Matt Price down the corridor. Their movements were quickly discovered by a very unhappy superpowered teen. The confrontation quickly devolved into a fight, which quickly led the Bat Pack into detention.
Detention, however, provided the three Gothamites with their next two suspects; quick to anger with a chip on his shoulder and loner, Brick Pettirosso, sitting next to them in detention for reasons unknown, and Billy Batson. The latter they observed standing on the Tower’s roof through Bratgirl’s tablet via the security camera, shouting something into the sky.
Once free of detention, the Bat Pack’s attempts of searching Billy Batson’s dorm room are quickly shut down by his roommate, Miguel Montez, and so they move on to the next option; searching Brick Pettirosso’s. Their hunt through the teen’s personal items comes to an abrupt halt by the teen himself and the Bat Pack makes a very hasty retreat out of his dorm room and to the control room of the Tower, where they decide to lay low for a little while.
According to Chupacabra, they should have been able to crack the case wide open by now, something the teen knows for a fact that Batman would have been able to do. The investigation isn’t the only thing that’s looking pretty bleak; so is the group’s spirit.
Bratgirl, however, decides to have none of it and cheers up her two friends by reminding them that even Batman has had tough cases, such as the Court of Owls or the Long Halloween. Besides, the Bat taught Nightwing everything he knows, but even the first Robin wasn’t able to discover that it was Bratgirl who reprogrammed the fight simulator to mess with him on the first day of school.
It does the trick, and Chupacabra is back on the case. They slowly start eliminating every student that they know can’t be Red X, which crosses off about every student…except one.
Their hunch is totally shut down by both Donna Troy and Beast Boy, who arrive in time to witness their conclusion. Billy Batson is not Red X, a fact that the Titans make abundantly clear, along with the fact that the Bat Pack needs to stay away from the investigation and leave Red X to them.
Dejectedly, the three teens head back to their room. In their minds, Donna is wrong and the chances that Billy Batson is actually their mysterious anti-hero are extremely high…chances that come crashing down once they open the door to their room.
Inside, staring back at them, is none other than Red X.
Analysis: The ever-elusive mystery of who is wearing the mask of Red X remains just that in Teen Titans Academy #4. Written by Tim Sheridan and illustrated by artist Steve Lieber with colors done by Dave Stewart, this issue left me feeling a little confused.
The story is written like it’s supposed to be an entertaining parody of the typical detective story or a fun metacommentary on the series itself, neither of which really feel like they fit as the series hasn’t yet established itself. The beginning few pages make it seem like it’s a detective noir tale, which initially gives the impression that there might be some validity to the investigative skills the young teens claim to have, but it doesn’t take too long to realize the artistic approach is meant to be more of a parody and that in reality, the teens aren’t good detectives.
This does give way to some heart and humor throughout the issue, but to me, it’s a bit overshadowed by the lack of both plot and character development. Bratgirl, Megabat, and Chupacabra, otherwise known as the Bat Pack, are true fans of Batman, which is made very clear and does give the opportunity for fellow Batman fans like myself to feel a sense of camaraderie with the characters.
Other than their love for the Dark Knight, however, not much else about them is detailed. The entirety of this issue focuses on these three characters and yet I’m still confused as to who they actually are, what led them to join the Teen Titan’s Academy (aside from Nightwing bringing them in), and if I should invest my time to care about them as characters.
I found similar hardships with the plot, as not much really happens. Teen Titans Academy #4 came across like a filler episode that failed to fuel the development of the actual story. While some moments were comedic and did showcase a little more about other academy students, the majority of the pages were filled with the Bat Pack spying on their classmates and rifling through their rooms (which they get caught doing every time) and electrocuting their classmate Tooby for the sake of their investigation. Why? Perhaps for the sake of comedy or in a very misguided attempt to make the characters more endearing but that was uncouth and very…strange.
Additionally, it’s revealed later that it was Bratgirl who tamper with the fight simulator to “mess with Nightwing” but it isn’t revealed as to why. These three teens are hardcore Batman fans, and, subsequently, fans of Nightwing. Did she do that test his martial art skills? Learn more about the story behind Red X? Literally just for kicks? It’s frustrating to learn who was responsible for tampering with the hologram and yet have no clue as to why it was tampered within the first place.
Hey, at least Billy Batson was in a couple of pages!
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with a copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic digitally and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue either through Comixology or Amazon.